With your union’s help, California has once again taken steps to stop evictions and protect renters who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Much more remains to be done, but this was an important follow up to last year’s AB 3088.
Here are the renter protections you should know:
For renters who are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19- related financial impacts and who submit the appropriate declaration to their landlord:
RENT DUE: March 1, 2020 – August 31, 2020
Unpaid rent cannot be the basis for eviction, but it can be recovered in small claims court after
July 1, 2021, UNLESS the landlord has received governmental rental assistance funding and waived any remaining rental debt. (More information about rental assistance funding will be released by the state in the coming weeks.)
RENT DUE: September 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021
25% of rent for each month of this period must be paid by June 30, 2021 to avoid eviction for unpaid rent. The rest can be recovered in court after July 1, 2021, UNLESS the landlord has received government rental assistance funding and waived any remaining rental debt (More information about rental assistance funding will be released by the state in the coming weeks).
For renters who are unable to pay rent due to decreased income or increased out-of-pocket medical expenses, whether or not that is related to COVID, and who submit the appropriate declaration to their landlord:
RENT DUE: Through March 1, 2021
An order from the Centers for Disease Control may offer protection from eviction until March 31, 2021, but unpaid rent from this time period can be the basis for eviction after that.
No one who has COVID-19 financial related impacts that were not remedied by public assistance can be lawfully evicted for not paying rent due from March 2020 to June 30, 2021, so long as these conditions are met:
- For rent due between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020, a renter who completes a specific declaration that they have “COVID-19 related financial distress” can never be evicted because they did not pay that rent.
- For rent due between September 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, a renter who completes a declaration that they have “COVID-19 related financial distress,” AND pays 25% of the rent due for each month of that time period by June 30, 2021, can never be lawfully evicted because they did not pay the rest of that rent.
- The 25% can be paid each month or in a lump sum by June 30, 2021.
- Even if a renter cannot pay the 25% they are protected from eviction until July 1, 2021 so long as they have completed the declaration.
Know your rights
- A landlord can seek to recover any unpaid rent in court after July 1, 2021, UNLESS the landlord has received government rental assistance funding and waived any remaining rental debt.
- Landlords are prohibited from charging late fees or interest for nonpayment of rent due between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
- Landlords are required to apply renter’s rental payments to the current month’s rent, unless the renter agrees in writing that the landlord can apply it to a previous month’s rent.
- Landlords face increased penalties for illegally locking tenants out, or doing things like shutting off utilities or harassing tenants, where the renter has provided the landlord a signed declaration that they have “COVID-19 related financial distress.”
- Landlords and screening companies are prohibited from considering rental debt accrued between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, as a negative factor when evaluating a renter’s qualifications to rent.
- If a landlord wants to evict a tenant for rent that was not paid between March 2020 and June 2021, the landlord must give the renter a notice to “pay rent or quit” that explains the new law AND a blank declaration form the renter can sign. The renter must sign and return this form within 15 days (keeping a copy and proof that they sent it), and must sign a declaration and return it to the landlord each time they receive a 15 day notice.
- Unless there is a local law in place with other eviction protections, landlords may still be able to evict tenants for reasons other than non-payment of rent, however, landlords may NOT evict tenants as retaliation for exercising their rights under this law.
- Some cities and counties have passed even stronger laws that provide even greater protections; however, because how these laws interact can be complicated, renters should talk to local lawyers to make sure they are getting the best advice.
Keep careful records of:
- All of your rent payments and receipts from your landlord
- Any communication with your landlord
- Any notices sent by the landlord and any declaration you send to the landlord that you have economic impacts from COVID-19
Get Legal Help
If you think you have met these conditions and your landlord still threatens eviction, or to be sure you are getting good advice about any local laws that will help renters in your area, contact the MAC at 855-810-2015, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.lawhelpca.org to find a list of organizations that give free legal services to low-income renters in your area.
This law is an important first step that your union fought for – but we know it’s not enough. We’ll continue fighting for the much-needed long-term housing security our members need to remain in their homes while California recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.